August 16th is the date of celebration of São Roque. On this date, in 1295, he was born in Montpellier, France, a city traditionally known for its inclination to research in the areas of medicine and esoterism, having lived and taught there numerous alchemists and Nostradamus himself.
Roque, like so many young people from a wealthy family, studied medicine in his hometown without, however, completing his training. At a very young age, he abandoned this path to embrace another mission: he donates all his possessions and goes on a pilgrimage to Rome.
The journey proved to be long and fruitful. Roque crossed a region affected by the plague, he was in many devastated cities, in which he can help in the treatment of the sick, helping and operating cures. In Rome, where he stayed for three years, he was also with patients contaminated by the plague, always in the work of assistance.
On the return trip, he found himself stricken with the disease. In Piacenza, northern Italy, with a large wound on his leg (a plague bulb), he hid in a wood, isolating himself so as not to infect anyone.
Dejected, he would have starved to death if he hadn’t been found by a dog. The dog, belonging to a powerful man, Palastrelli, stole food scraps from his master’s table that he brought to the forest.
Noticing, for days on end, the strange behavior of the animal, Palastrelli decided to follow him. When he found Roque, seeing that his dog was stealing to help a sick person, he was very moved and helped by providing support for the pilgrim to recover.
To celebrate this intense connection between saint and dog – beings marked by kindness, dedication, fidelity – the iconography of São Roque always represents him with the walking stick, accompanied by the beloved furry animal that carried in its mouth a piece of food, a piece of bread or something.
Whether in the very rich Basilica of San Roque, Venice, on a medal to wear around the neck or in the most modest of the “santinhos” distributed on the door of a small church, the image of friends side by side fills us with hope: in difficult times, help can come from the unexpected.
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